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World Bank, Washington, DC
2012-08-13T13:13:20Z | 2012-08-13T13:13:20Z | 1999-08

The note examines the practical, and literate skills that students acquire at different levels in West African Koranic schools. It is a long-standing parallel system of education, yet, relatively unknown to development planers, thus seldom taken into explicit account in their policies, and strategies. Islamic educational systems have been present since the seventh century, and by the tenth century, communities of Muslim merchants, and scholars were established in many commercial centers region wide. The system of Islamic learning across West Africa is several-tiered, though less rigidly structured than its Western counterpart. Nonetheless, and despite a uniformity tendency toward underlying religious culture, and basic orientation, the nature and quality of instruction in Koranic schools, and the Islamic system as a whole, vary tremendously from region to region. Given that understanding of Arabic - modern or classic - beyond the Koranic texts is rare, the highest levels of practical literacy are most frequently found in areas where there is a developed system for transcribing African language with Arabic characters. The note concludes that basic Islamic instruction has dimensions of practical application, i.e., it constitutes an introduction to the technology of writing, and to a lesser extent, to numeracy; it is a training, as well as local leadership; and, has always been an avenue for social, and economic advancement.


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